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How Opeth conjured up their Ghost Reveries

Despite suffering from severe burnout, Opeth channelled the spirts of prog and metal to magic Ghost Reveries into existence. Ten years on, we revisit the fraught creation of a masterpiece...

From the outside, Opeth’s rise to critical and commercial glory seemed to occur without a hitch.

But in 2005, when the Swedish progressives commenced work on what would become their most successful album yet and an obvious milestone in their creative evolution, frontman Mikael Åkerfeldt was not commanding a happy ship. The gruelling gestation and birth of his band’s twin-album enterprise, Deliverance [2002] and Damnation [2003], had taken an alarming toll on Mikael’s health (“My turds were white!” he once recalled), and while few people had anything negative to say about the records, morale in the Opeth camp was at an all-time low when they travelled to Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden, to begin work on their eighth album – and, it would transpire, their first for new label Roadrunner Records – Ghost Reveries.

“We were a bit all over the place,” Mikael admits today. “The connection between the members had disintegrated a bit. I was more on my own than ever before. I was writing on my own. I don’t think we were communicating that well. The excitement strictly came from writing music, which I guess is all I need in the end.”

By this point, Mikael was effectively the sole creator of music in Opeth, not to mention their de facto producer. But despite the pressure he had endured during the *Deliverance/Damnation *sessions, and disharmony in the band’s ranks, his enthusiasm for penning a new masterpiece was still strong.

“I had a little home studio, a portable studio, and I was recording home demos,” he recalls. “I was hanging around with my then-wife and waiting for the birth of our first child. So I was pretty happy. I had writer’s block at the beginning, but then I started fooling around with open tunings on the guitar, and I could play the same melodies and chords and move my fingers in the same way I always did, but different notes would come out. So that was really interesting.”

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